Friday, October 07, 2011
ROCHESTER, Minn. — John T. Shepherd, M.D., a visionary Mayo Clinic cardiologist and scientist who headed the American Heart Association, served as a NASA adviser and led U.S. scientific exchanges with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, has died. He was 92.
Dr. Shepherd died Oct. 4 at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Dr. Shepherd made major contributions to understanding the regulation of the circulatory system, producing more than 300 scientific publications and four books. He was president of the American Heart Association in 1975-76. He was also a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Dr. Shepherd received many awards over the years, including honorary degrees from the Universities of Bologna, Ghent and Queens. He was actively involved with NASA and the National Academy of Sciences, and chaired the academy's Committee on Space Medicine from 1965-74. During the Cold War, Shepherd helped the U.S. space program by working with colleagues in the then-Soviet Union on space physiology.
"Dr. Shepherd was a giant in cardiovascular physiology who made fundamental observations about blood pressure regulation in humans and many other elements of cardiovascular control. He was also a visionary leader who engaged in and promoted translational research 30 or 40 years before it was a buzz word at NIH (National Institutes of Health) and in the scientific community," said Michael Joyner, M.D., the associate dean for research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
As Dr. Shepherd performed cutting-edge scientific work, he was also leading the ongoing transformation of Mayo Clinic from a group practice to a group practice embedded in a world class academic medical center.
Dr. Shepherd was born May 21, 1919, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and received his M.B., B.Ch, M.Chir and M.D. with honors from Queens University in Belfast. He completed his internship and residency at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
Later, Dr. Shepherd joined the academic staff at Queens in the Department of Physiology. In 1953, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to come to Mayo Clinic for one year to engage in cardiovascular research. The selection of Mayo Clinic was based on his brother's enthusiasm after reading The Doctors Mayo. Dr. Shepherd returned to Northern Ireland but eventually moved to the U.S. in 1957 to join Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Shepherd, and his three close colleagues in the small department of Physiology at Queen's University, later became deans of medical schools around the world. Dr. Shepherd was one of 15 physicians in his family, including his daughter, his son who is on staff at Mayo Clinic, and his grandson and namesake who is at Mayo Medical School.
Mayo Clinic was Dr. Shepherd's professional home and he made many contributions. Dr. Shepherd was director of research from 1969-76. In this position, and as a member of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Shepherd was instrumental in enabling Mayo Clinic to become a degree-granting institution in 1972. He became director for education of the Mayo Foundation and dean of the new Mayo Medical School from 1977–83. This included responsibility for the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine and Mayo School of Health-Related Sciences. From 1983-88, Dr. Shepherd chaired the Mayo Board of Development and was actively involved in establishment of the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, Fla. Dr. Shepherd retired from Mayo Clinic in 1989. In 2003, he published a memoir, Inside the Mayo Clinic.
"As I look back on my fifty years at Mayo Clinic and Foundation, I am astonished at its metamorphosis beyond what William Worrall Mayo, and particularly his sons, Charles Horace Mayo and William James Mayo, first envisioned," Shepherd wrote in his book. "I am also gratified by my opportunities to play a part in that growth as a researcher, educator and partner in what is, arguably, the world's greatest medical group practice."
Dr. Shepherd is survived by his second wife, Marion, a son and a daughter, four step-children, five grandchildren, eight step-grandchildren and a great-grandson.
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